Wednesday, May 4, 2022

My Family's Exodus from Ukraine

A few weeks ago some of my family members had a Passover seder. Passover is an exodus story. With huge numbers trying to leave Ukraine right now our thoughts turned to my own family's exodus from there. Rising antisemitism, employment restrictions and forced military service drove my family to risk everything to escape from Khotyn, Ukraine (then part of Austria-Hungary) and come to the United States. My great grandfather was the first to leave, in 1905. He traveled by steamship from Hamburg, Germany to Philadelphia. How he got to Hamburg is less clear but the shipping companies arranged for passengers to travel there by train with minimal harassment. I made a map of the trip based on railroad maps of that era, making assumptions about the most likely route across Europe.

There was no railroad in Khotyn at the time so they would have needed to travel the 30 kilometers to Czernowicz (not Cherivsti), probably in secret. My great grandmother followed with several children two years later. It must have been very frightening to leave everything behind to go to a place where they didn't know the language or how safe they would be. I'm sure today's Ukrainians are going through similar or worse horrors. Here is a second, less interesting map I made to complete the journey.

There is a story about my great grandmother going grocery shopping on her first day and not recognizing the house on the way back because the houses in South Philadelphia all looked the same. She had to walk up and down the street a few times before a neighbor came and helped her. If you see a lost refugee, They might need your help!

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